It still does. They call AS the ‘young person’s arthritis’, and when I heard that, I hated it. I associated it with being limited, and I wanted to be unlimited. I’d travelled to Switzerland to compete for Australia, I’d won Australian and Oceania XC running titles, made the all time Australian fastest 5k and 10k list in 2018, and was on the podium at nordic ski races, I’d gathered the support of various sponsors and eventually made the move to the US to run in D1 NCAA. I really wanted to grab life by the horns.
AS affects 1-2% of Australians, that’s around 520,000 people, and is 3 times more common in men than women. (Empowered – Arthritis Australia, n.d.) 3.2 Million people in the US have AS. It’s most commonly diagnosed between 15-40, however 80% of patients will experience symptoms before the age of 30. (Ankylosing Spondylitis : Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment, n.d.) On average it takes more than 3 years after symptom onset for the diagnosis to be made in a teenager or young adult. It’s a small percentage of the population, and my chances of having it were small, but I did. The reality is the emotional and physical impacts are immense, particularly if you’re yet to be diagnosed (this condition can be tricky to spot), or having trouble obtaining treatment (it’s a lengthy process, as without government or insurance support, the injections cost around 60k a year).
I’ve forever known myself to be a go-getter, and somewhat of a perfectionist. Being diagnosed with AS challenged parts of who I am immensely. It was both a physical and emotional thing. The constant pain lingering felt like a constant ‘hum’, that at times made me feel like I should just give up. Then it would suddenly disappear for a couple of days and I’d really get moving again. The unpredictability of the pain made me feel unstable, and I really struggled with that. I love planning and chipping away at something, but AS didn’t allow for that. I had to learn to find stability in the instability. It was a microcosm for living life in general.
I spent from around the time of diagnosis, October 2021 to September of this year in disbelief that I actually had the condition. It sounds stupid right, like, if multiple doctors are pretty convinced, you should definitely think so too. There was always the chance it wasn’t, and that my anxiety around having potentially ‘ruined’ myself in my early years and being a washed up junior athlete would become the truth. Early treatment wasn’t working, which didn’t give me any further hope. All I could do is what I’ve always done, keep persisting and doing what I can do. I just knew it wasn’t what I had the potential to do; I felt limited. I’d known something wasn’t quite right long before the diagnosis, but neither I nor any doctor could pinpoint it. It took 4 years to really find out and more recently to begin to make a turn for the better, to feel like I could be that high-level athlete again.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when things started. However, we are pretty sure it was late 2018 at 20 years old, when very atypical tendon pain and other inexplicable injuries started to ravage my training and performance. I’d only been running properly for 2 years, coming from a nordic skiing background, and I hadn’t explored high volume training yet. I felt like I ‘survived’ through 2019 with some success on the Boise State University XC and Track NCAA program, however, things were never quite right, and by the time I started to feel a bit better, COVID hit and the next 2 years were spent living in a grey sort of state with my sport. I was stuck in the US with strict COVID laws in Australia preventing me from returning, and needing to finish my Master’s. It wasn’t until I returned to Australia in 2021 that things calmed down and I was properly diagnosed.
There currently isn’t a cure, however there are medications which can improve quality of life drastically. I began fortnightly injections called ‘Biologics’, in September this year and they have changed the game for me. I didn’t trust that they would, but I have less and less days in pain, less flare ups, and my mental health and performance has improved as a result.
Sometimes I still let fear get the better of me and wonder if I’ll ever compete as I did before this condition crept its way into my life. I recognize that this isn’t a helpful way to think, and that I have to actively practice living in the now more than trying to predict the future. I do know, whatever the case, AS has taught me to persevere and get myself out of the weeds, no matter the challenge. I believe I can handle it. I will keep persisting and being resilient. Things tend to work out in some way or another, even if it’s hard to see when you’re caught in the weeds. Uncertainty, fear, anxiety – they are all easily magnified by the world around us. If we can learn to ride out the storms, ask for help, and simply do what we can do in these times…’chop wood, carry water’, it usually will work out.
It was in learning to deal with the realities of Ankylosing Spondylitis that I learnt how to handle disbelief and fear as an athlete. It honed my skills to find stability in instability.
“A person does not grow from the ground like a vine or a tree, one is not part of a plot of land. Mankind has legs so it can wander.”
2023 is either here for you, or right around the corner. Life will continue to be like a moody ocean. Some days will be calm and clear, you’ll be able to see what’s beneath you, and likely what’s ahead. Other days will be a storm, with persistent waves that feel like they’ll never settle. If you can ride out the occasional storm, and harness the restorative energy in the calm, you have found stability in instability. You’ll get better at getting yourself out of the weeds. You’ll be like a tennis ball, you can bounce back.
Recovery is the key to success. Many athletes can master training as such, especially over years and years, however, beneficial adaptions will not occur to their most optimal standard unless recovery is also understood and ‘mastered’ in a sense (to use that term loosely). It’s pretty simple when we get down to the nuts and bolts of it – sleep and nutrition are king, and outweigh things like foam rolling and active recovery in the long term.
Also, I don’t think I’ve said this before, but when I write these articles I am attempting to do so in a way that makes these topics comprehensible to anyone who decides to give them a read (thank you for being here!). I don’t intend on getting too deep into scientific concepts and the applicable research because I think it would miss the point for my audience reading this and the simplicities of practical application.
It is hard to say what will work best for each individual – to understand this takes testing the practical application of recovery methodologies on yourself. However, there are a few well-known ‘best’ recovery methods for runners derived from both research and, as I mentioned, practical application and positive response.
I wrote a post in mid-2021 on ‘how to have more energy for running’ (click here to read). I bring this up because this article has a lot of cross-over with this current one. Why?
The key is – you get stronger when you recover, not whilst you’re ‘doing’ the said activity. That’s when we apply stress and strain to the body. When we recover well, we adapt well. I really wish someone had explained this to me as a very young athlete with this type of simple wording. The typical athlete is very driven, and quite often it is not a matter of telling them to do more, but more so to train smarter not harder, and recover even better. Another important thing to note, is “stress is stress”. An athlete will hinder their recovery in an environment inducing stress overload. For example, if work is stressful, and the university is stressful, then there isn’t much room for training to be a large stressor too. This is where the balancing act begins.
How Can I Recover Faster From Running?
This is the golden question, and funnily enough the top ‘googled’ question around this topic. Everyone wants to recover faster so they can get back to it faster, right? The goal is to recover well enough to stress the body again (consistency), with the occurrence of adaptions targeted to optimal performance in the activity, and likely, an event/s. If we don’t recover we risk overtraining, which can lead to unfavorable adaptations, or a limit on adaption, illness, injury, etc. You want just enough stress to elicit a favorable response, consistently.
The good news is that there are a few tools that can optimize recovery and therefore elicit optimal performance benefits. However sometimes there’s no ‘magic’, it’s simply a matter of time to allow the body to adapt. This reigns true particularly if training has multiple stressors such as environmental stressors on top of load (heat, altitude, humidity – to name a few). I’ll explore that a bit more below.
Recovery Nutrition For Runners
We need to think of food as energy availability. The food you eat fuels the activity you do and the life you want to live. I like to remember that energy intake has to equal (and better for athletes) energy output. This will ensure not only optimal performance but adequate general health.
We don’t need to track food unless we have specific goals or are guided by a medical professional as that can pose its own issues. However, we need to always eat enough. Food is fuel and the building blocks of repair from our training load. It’s likely you’ve heard of RED-S by now – Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport, which will eventuate in adverse health and performance in athletes. RED-S occurs when energy expenditure is not being met adequately with energy intake over a sustained period of time. The adverse effects of underfuelling can impact both male and female athletes, however data trends highlight that, ‘1 in 3 female athletes has 2 or more symptoms of underfuelling’. From a data collection standpoint, it seems that women are more ‘prone’ to this issue, however, it can be easier to tell if a female is under-fuelling.
Well-timed and adequate food intake is a crucial component of recovery. Ideally, endurance athletes will intake a 3:1 ratio of CHO (carbohydrates) to protein within 30 minutes of exercise particularly over an hour in length. If your exercise duration is > 60 minutes, bring fuel with you. This could be gels, liquid nutrition, waffles, or a combo of a few. I personally like Tailwind, Spring Energy and Maurten. I avoid preservatives (sorbates, benzoates, MSG, nitrates, flavour enhancers) at all costs, and these nutrition brands are perfect in that sense. Look out for 200 and 600 numbers on ingredient labels (not including food acids etc.) if you’re trying to be wary of these artificial additives.
Long story short – find food that you enjoy eating, always eat enough, and find what works to fuel your training + life! Nutrition should be a fun part of recovery.
Sleep Recovery For Runners
Sleep is the only time the body fully recovers, so for the runner, (and anyone) sleep is going to be a key component of recovery. I could write a whole piece on this, and I will at some point, but here are the nuts and bolts of it… If you can’t get enough sleep in a night, try for a 20-minute power nap around lunchtime or mid-afternoon. This can elicit beneficial responses. Steve Magness, author and performance coach, recently posted about a NASA study. NASA found that just one, “twenty-five-minute nap improved judgment by 35 percent and vigilance by 16 percent.” The data is clear, short naps do work. Longer naps, not so much as that’s when our nighttime sleep can be negatively impacted. My personal favorite which I was introduced to by my good friend Bastein is to drink a coffee right before the 20-minute nap, and by the time you wake, the coffee will work. It’s a double whammy in that sense!
A properly planned training program
A well-structured training program is a plan, and a plan needs to be flexible. This allows for realistic changes due to life, needing extra recovery time, events, etc. Athletes should have a range of interests that aren’t just work and training, to maintain a healthy mental and physical state. Flexibility allows for this. It’s important to remember that mental fatigue can be a source of physical fatigue (stress is stress), so we must account for this.
Further, the training load needs to be balanced appropriately with recovery time, to ensure favorable training adaptions are made. This means the next time we do ‘said workout’ or activity, we are able to handle it better, push ourselves a little further, and likely elicit another positive training response.
Environmental Stressors Impacting Recovery for the Distance Runner
I decided to include a section on environmental stressors as external to the training load itself, environmental factors can impact our recovery and therefore need to be considered.
If an athlete lives in an environment of high altitude or intense heat, per se, this needs to be considered in the training program and predicting ‘total-training stress’ (TTS). Training Peaks track this (sans environmental stress) which can be useful to gain a rough understanding when tracked over a few training cycles of general fatigue. I won’t go into this too much, but you can check it out here.
I live at a moderate altitude, around 2350m – so it’s fitting for me to discuss altitude as environmental stress on physiological systems. You’ll hear of athletes adopting varied training protocols such as live-high train-low (LHTL) or live-high-train-high (LHTH) in an attempt to gain favorable adaptions for their specific events. ( Generally agreed as, High (8,000 – 12,000 feet [2,438 – 3,658 meters]), Very High (12,000 – 18,000 feet [3,658 – 5,487 meters]).
However, adaptions will vary depending on the type of exposure the athlete has. For example, are they chronically adapted (they have lived for an extended period of time at said altitude)? Do they expose themselves to altitude in acute episodes? A series of encounters consistently over time? Even then, the athlete’s response will likely be highly varied from individual to individual. There’s decreased oxygen availability and therefore higher cardiac output. Adaptions to better oxygenate tissue in the body include a higher hemoglobin (Hb) count. Increased Hb levels allow the body to better oxygenate working muscles. To explore this a little further, EPO (a hormone) production from the kidney in response to hypoxia will spike (peak) within 48hrs of exposure to elicit bone marrow-produced red blood cells (red bone marrow), to increase oxygen carrying capacity of blood in the body to the tissue. Red blood cells use Hb to transport oxygen around the body. Having a higher red blood cell count will boost Hb count. You’ll perform at a higher level the more efficiently your body can oxygenate tissue in response to the increased demands. Think of it like a repeating cycle in the body’s fight for better blood oxygen levels at altitude. Why am I discussing this in an article about recovery? Because this environmental factor, and the type of exposure, need to be considered when planning training load and recovery time. Stress is stress. Severe Hypoxia is a large stress on the system. Account for it with extra CHO (carbohydrate intake) and food intake in general, watch your fluid and electrolyte levels, and ensure you are putting up your feet enough!
Next, just make sure you’re fit. You can buy all the gadgets in the world, but fitness and overall health will win out in the end. If you will be racing at altitude and you don’t have the chance to train at a similar height often, follow an acclimation protocol. I won’t go into detail here as that is very individual and race-based.
What Drinks Help Sore Muscles?
I personally wouldn’t resort to ‘drinks’ as a sole aid in muscle recovery, however, there are a few which can assist in the recovery process. Before I briefly write about this, can we give a big shout-out to water first and foremost? Water is your friend! Extra bold this if you have heightened environmental stressors too.
Tart Cherry juice, such as my favourite, Cheribundi, aids in sleep and therefore can assist in recovery. This is due to the higher melatonin content in tart cherries. Magnesium powder such as this one by Natural Vitality has helped my sleep and inflammation, although I’m not a regular user. I prefer to get most of my nutrients from food (macro and micro!)
I wish that more sportswear manufacturers considered sports bras a piece of performance equipment. Sports bras for running need to be designed to prevent chafing, provide adequate support for a higher-impact sport, and have great breathability. Since I started running longer distances, mitigating issues like chafing has become increasingly important. I often found chafing was a problem and general irritation from the seams. I blamed this on cheaper-made sports bras, to which more often than not comfort and performance are sacrificed for quick sales and aesthetics.
A True Performance Sports Bra
Enter Lume Six, a sports bra company that has performance, fit, and the environment in mind. Lume Six sports bras are unlike any other on the market – I can say that because I’ve tried and tested them myself. To begin with, you can adjust the sizes in the band and the chest, to customize the fit to your body shape. Margaux, owner, and founder of Lume Six explains that one of the biggest issues when choosing a sports bra for running is finding the right fit. For example, a sports bra can fit well on the chest but not on the shoulders. This then increases the chances of chafing and drastically reduces the support the bra can provide.
I chose the Alta Medium Impact Sports Bra. This bra was created for flexible support (a step down from maximum) and the highest breathability possible. As a smaller-chested woman, I don’t need a high level of support, however, fitting a bra can be tricky as often the chest will fit but I won’t fit the cups. Being able to customize the fit of the straps allows my Alta bra to fit snug, and feel weightless on my body. Weightlessness is a particularly favorite feature of mine, as I like that light feeling when I run.
The Best Sports Bra For Running
I wore my Lume Six bra in The Broken Arrow Skyrace 52k, my first shorter ultra-distance race. It performed impeccably, being supportive, breathable, and lightweight. I don’t like the extra removable padding on many sports bras for running because I can notice them. Lume Six bras don’t have them, and they don’t need them – even if you have a larger chest size. It is worth pointing out that Lume Six is a female-owned and created company. Margaux has our needs and bodies in mind when creating these high-performance sports bras. As an awesome athlete herself (you should see her rip on the mountain bike!), she knows what it takes to create a bra that meets the demands of any sport.
Medium and High Impact Sports Bras
She didn’t stop there – Lume Six sports bras are made from recycled content. She has partnered up with a sustainable fabric production company in Italy, to ensure both quality and environmental sustainability. Also, 1% of sales will go to 1% for the planet. I recommend the Alta Medium Impact Sports Bra for hiking, mountain biking, pilates, or if you have a smaller chest size, it works well for running. The next step up is the Cirra High Impact Sports Bra, which has higher support and is also great for running. The straps won’t bunch up and twist easily, the sports bra will dry quickly, and the seamless construction will prevent chafing. This is the ultimate performance-minded sports bra, with the environment in mind.
You’ve probably heard heat, in the training context, referred to as ‘the poor man’s altitude’. The context behind this is, altitude camps and taking the time off (generally from work, family duties, etc) is costly. There’s truth to the poor man’s altitude. You can use heat to train for altitude (cross-adaptation), and clearly, use heat to train for heat. To prepare properly for an environmental extreme such as heat, a protocol period of acclimation or acclimatization can be undertaken to elicit favorable adaptations. This is particularly important if you are going to:
Race in hot environments
Need to maintain heat adaptations over the winter for hotter races in warmer climates
Are racing at altitude but don’t have access to altitude training (cross-adaptation for runners)
The goal should be to expose yourself to the minimal dose of heat possible to elicit the most significant adaptation. This is because too much extra environmental stress can impact the most important thing of all – RECOVERY!
Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.
– Albert Einstein
If you need to introduce heat training, it’s important to identify which heat protocol will work best for you given your goals, finances, and lifestyle. Working with a professional and understanding this for yourself would be advised here. The most effective protocol for an individual with a high training load, as research indicates thus far, is a passive dry sauna after an exercise session.
Is heat training good for running? And does heat make running harder?
Yes, heat training is good for running, but only when done sensibly in a planned manner, with a goal in mind. Heat Training is especially important for athletes who will race in hot and/or humid conditions. When you exercise in a hot environment, the body will undergo a series of processes to thermoregulate, in order to maintain homeostasis. If our physiological systems fail to maintain homeostasis in a really hot environment, it can result in hyperthermia. The body has failed to compensate for the environment. This is the same with hypothermia in the cold.
You’ll notice on the first hot run of a season that you’ll probably sweat more, and your perceived exertion will be higher (elevated HR). The good news is, even without a specific heat training protocol, after roughly 10 days you’d likely notice that your resting and active HR have returned to normal. A few other adaptations you’ll notice if you pay attention are an earlier onset of sweating, how much you sweat (volume), and a lower core body temperature.
What about heat training strategies for both shorter and longer trail running events?
The goal of heat adaptation will differ from trail runners to track runners, given that trail running events are often longer. This makes pre-race cooling strategies, such as ice packs on the places where you lose the most heat (head, neck, wrists, underarms, groin, etc.) effective for shorter track events. For trail running, it is best to mitigate heat as much as possible, supporting the event with an appropriate prior heat training protocol. A few good examples of trail running events you’d want to heat train for would be the Western States Endurance Run (100 miles), and Bandera 100.
How do you learn to run in the heat?
You have to get out there and run in the heat if you are in an environment that enables you to do so. Otherwise, a professionally guided heat protocol will be your next best bet. Take it easy for the first few days. Maintain hydration by drinking regularly. It’s important to remember to hydrate (electrolytes specifically) in hotter environments. Interestingly in a virtual symposium for The European College of Sports Science, Lewis James explained that “dehydration of >2% body mass degrades endurance and cognitive performance, and the effect increases with increasing ambient temperature.” What does this mean? Practice drinking during exercise, and if you’re inevitably going to face dehydration, practice for it. It also means that it doesn’t take much to impair performance. For perspective, for a 70kg/154lb male equates to 1400mls.
You can monitor urine concentration – this might be TMI, but it’s very useful. You want to be peeing pale urine rather than concentrated bright yellow. It may be helpful to monitor weight, as weight loss will indicate dehydration as well.
In around 7-10 days of running in a hot climate, you’ll likely notice a better tolerance to the heat. For trained individuals, adaptations will occur quicker, compared to the untrained individual which, after continual exposure will usually see benefits after 2 weeks. As discussed below in more detail, some helpful signs that indicate heat adaptation include an earlier onset of sweating, more sweat, and less time to fatigue conducive to a lowered HR (by this, I meant it is closer to your usual HR for the specific activity, compared to an initial spiked HR upon introduction to the heat).
How do you adapt to running in the heat?
It takes at least 10 days for adaptations to occur, but as with anything, it can differ from individual to individual, and for male and female. It’s important to make sure you prepare enough time ahead of the event.
Various adaptations occur, including a higher volume of sweat and an earlier onset of sweating. The sweat itself is more dilute than at more temperate climates. The athlete’s Heart Rate (HR) increases, and stroke volume (SV) increases (HR x SV = CO) CO, being cardiac output. Peripheral vessels will vasodilate – all changes which result in heat loss.
Heat loss is vital as the body is only as efficient as a light bulb. About 75% of the energy made during exercise is used by the muscles – the rest is lost in heat. If the body can lose heat quickly and efficiently, it can continue to exercise at its best capabilities. – hence the adaptations it makes to lose the increased heat made in hotter climates.
However, if the body cannot lose heat to the environment either due to high ambient temperature, or high humidity, or the person is not adapted to the heat, then the body will store heat, with the core temperature increasing – and this will initially impair performance but can eventually kill from severe heat stroke. (temp >41 degrees).
Long story short, it’s important to prepare for your race properly.
Some other benefits of heat training include an improved VO2 Max, Lactate Threshold (LT), lower HR under higher stress and workloads, increased fat oxidation, and therefore increased chances to lose weight (if that’s a goal). Since endurance performance is largely determined by running economy, VO2 Max and LT, heat training can help!
What are some passive methods of heat training for endurance athletes?
Sitting in a dry heat sauna is likely the best option for a heat training protocol where you don’t have access to a naturally hot environment. This is done (passively, so sitting, not exercising) straight after concluding your exercise and doesn’t have to exceed 20-30 mins in time.
The Hot Tub method requires you to be fully emerged (past shoulders) for a very similar length of time.
You’ll elicit beneficial adaptations without having to exercise in strenuous conditions or run around in a sauna suit, or more clothes.
It’s important to note that you should always undertake protocols under the guidance of a professional – this is of crucial importance if you are doing ‘active’ heat training such as running in a sauna suit or spin biking heated chamber or room. Since the benefits of a post-run dry sauna session (sitting, passive) for 20 odd minutes elicit very similar adaptations, this is the path I’d choose. You’d want to hop in very soon after exercise. A hot tub immersion for heat training could work, however, to elicit the best response you’d want to be immersed right up to your neck, and for a similar amount of time to the sauna. The sauna simply seems more comfortable and practical to me. Besides, utilizing a sauna frequently is great for reducing the risk of all-cause cardiometabolic fatalities.
Some important timing things to note:
You will begin to lose adaptations after more than 2-3 days away from heat, so it’s best to follow a protocol with a minimum of 1 dose every 2nd-3rd day
Periodize your training load around the heat protocol and/or training load, to ensure you don’t have a high training load week paired with a high heat training week.
Work with what you have available to you!
How do you recover from heat training?
It’s really important to remember that we could do all these things to try to maximize performance, but the reality is, sometimes in trying to do too much or be a perfectionist about it, we end up shooting ourselves in the foot. It is meant to be fun after all, and it isn’t meant to take over your whole life. In saying this, the goal should be to find the minimum dosage to elicit the most beneficial adaptations for the event/races you’re training for.
In applying this principle, you’ll set yourself up for more optimized recovery, and in turn, a (hopefully) better performance come race day.
Sleep is really important, as it is the only time we fully recover – optimize this. Chronic stress such as an environmental one is just that, a ‘chronic stress’. We need to account for this. The stress could be long periods at a high altitude, or training in intensive heat. If you don’t sleep enough to account for this, it could result in maladaptations, the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.
More often than not, you can elicit beneficial physiological and cellular adaptations with shorter, smaller bouts of heat in the lead-up to an event, and this can be the most convenient thing for your training, time and total stress. Be smart!
Heat Training For Altitude: Cross-Adaptation For The Runner Racing At Altitude.
Does heat training help with altitude?
Heat training can help endurance athletes perform at altitude, particularly if the athlete does not have access to altitude or other mechanisms to mimic this environment (such as a chamber, an altitude tent, and actual higher-altitude environments, to name a few). Hot environments, let’s take, a dry-heat sauna, elicit stress on the system whilst it’s in a resting state, particularly if the individual spends a decent amount of time in the dry-heat sauna. Note, to elicit favorable adaptations, as mentioned earlier, 20-30 mins in the sauna post run or ride can have a multitude of positive benefits. The reason being is your core temperature is already elevated, corresponding with an elevated HR. At altitude, the physiological systems of individuals not acclimatized to the environment will experience elevated levels of stress at rest and exercise. Heat acclimation protocols can assist with attenuating this strain altitude. As discussed above in the beneficial adaptations of heat training and/or heat protocol, there will be an increase in plasma volume, and a lower core body temperature to elicit better oxygen delivery to working muscles. Better oxygen delivery to working muscles is a very favorable adaptation for an endurance athlete looking to perform at altitude.
However, as discussed in the intro of this post, stress is stress, and if an individual is living and/or training at a high altitude, and does not need to prepare for a race in the heat, heat training and protocols may not be necessary. The key pillar to successful training is even better recovery. These tools should be used under the supervision of a specialist, and the minimum dosage to elicit positive adaptations should be given. Further, the added stress of heat training and/or heat protocols should be in harmony with the training load of the athlete. For example, don’t schedule the highest volume week with the largest doses of heat training. That’s a sure way to burn out and impact recovery. For those out there that are interested in a cellular level, below I will briefly discuss heat shock protein (HSP) responses when exposed to altitude.
Heat Shock Proteins (HSP), altitude, and heat acclimation for endurance athletes.
Exercise induces stress on the cellular homeostatic mechanisms of the body. This exercise-induced challenge on these mechanisms will result in adaptations. Adaptations, both short and longer-term, are our physiological systems that maintain homeostasis in extreme environments. When cells are exposed to heat there’ll be an increase in heat shock proteins (HSP), particularly if it is in the early phases of heat introduction.
Importantly, HSP40 is activated in cells in response to physiological stress (not unlike other factors that induce HSP expression such as glucose deprivation). These HSP proteins respond to protect cell integrity and maintain homeostasis – for example, a response to hyperthermia (body temperature is well above normal, not to be mistaken for hypothermia, which is the opposite). Interestingly, for those athletes at altitude, HSP40 specifically, assists in the preservation of HIF-1 alpha which has an increased cellular response at altitude. HIF-1 plays a crucial role in the body’s response to hypoxia. This is important to note as HIF-1 acts as a dominant, “regulator of numerous hypoxia-inducible genes under hypoxic conditions.” (1) The HSP40 induced in cells as a response to heat stress is likely beneficial to performance in hypoxic environments. To put it simply, an individual who has heat trained or followed a heat training protocol prior to training or competing at altitude (such as a dry heat sauna protocol) and therefore is heat acclimated, will likely respond well to the increased physiological stress experienced at altitude. This is because, on a cellular level, heat adaptations have reduced HSP response when in a hypoxic environment.
However, there is still a need for further research into the role of HSPs, as this research could serve to benefit the likes of athletes, patients, and the general population. If you’re interested in reading more about HSPs, check this journal article out here. Further understanding of the role of HSPs in exercise physiology may prove beneficial for therapeutic targeting in diseased patient cohorts, exercise prescriptions for disease prevention, and training strategies for elite athletes. It would be interesting to monitor recovery via heat shock proteins through blood-based testing, however, this at current is not viable on a mass scale due to costs.
I hope this made you think about how you can better prepare for your next race in a strenuous environment. Whether you use a cross-adaptation technique, an intervention protocol, or outright training in the environment, preparation, timing, and harmony with the training load + other stressors and recovery are key!
Is heat training the same as altitude training?
In a literal sense, of course, heat training is not the same as altitude training. However, heat can be used to enhance performance, including endurance performance in hypoxic environments. Heat acclimation can improve our cellular and physiological functioning when exercising at altitude. Hence why earlier I mentioned the common saying, heat is the ‘poor man’s altitude.
A study by Fregly, 2011(2) noted that exposure to one environmental stressor can produce the same protective physiological adaptations needed to benefit performance in another environmental stressor. For example, moderate hypoxia and high levels of heat exposure elicit the same heat-shock response (cytoprotective HSP72). If an individual is acclimated to heat or hypoxia (focusing on longer-term exposure here), they’ll have more favorable gene expressions for increased cellular resilience to these environments. (Hutter et al, 1994) (3)
So whilst heat and altitude training are not the same in a literal sense, the cross-adaptations elicited by a sensible exercise protocol in heat are favorable to performance in a hypoxic environment (altitude).
Does heat training help with altitude?
Yes, different stimuli, including heat training, can help with running performance in hypoxic (altitude) environments. Long-term heat training protocols and exposure lead to what is called ‘acclimatory homeostasis’, where the body functions more capably in the environment; i.e. physiological systems and cells are more resilient to the environment.
I discussed some of these adaptions and responses earlier in this article but I’ll touch on it again briefly as it relates to heat and altitude cross-adaptations. Some favorable adaptations include:
Reduced exercising HR at altitude (longer-term acclimation protocols)
Increased SpO2 (oxygen saturation in the blood, a good thing to have higher levels for general health and altitude performance) (Heled et al., 2012)(4)
Greater cardiac output, therefore physiological efficiency (aka. work harder, for longer, more efficiently)
Increased HSP72 baseline levels, indicating increased resilience of a cell in stressful environments. A heat-acclimated individual (can be acute dosage/short term) will likely have an attenuated HSP response due to these increased baseline levels of HSP72. Elevated levels of HSP72 indicate that the individual has greater levels of adaptation to handle environmental stress (Lee et al., 2015)(5)
Please note that the optimal dosage of “heat” to improve the HSP72 baseline levels in the sense of long-term adaptation is still under investigation
(1) Lee, J. W., Bae, S. H., Jeong, J. W., Kim, S. H., & Kim, K. W. (2004). Hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF-1)alpha: its protein stability and biological functions. Experimental & molecular medicine, 36(1), 1–12. https://www.nature.com/articles/emm20041
(2)Lee, B. J., Miller, A., James, R. S., & Thake, C. D. (2016). Cross Acclimation between Heat and Hypoxia: Heat Acclimation Improves Cellular Tolerance and Exercise Performance in Acute Normobaric Hypoxia. Frontiers in physiology, 7, 78. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2016.00078
(3) Hutter, M. M., Sievers, R. E., Barbosa, V., & Wolfe, C. L. (1994). Heat-shock protein induction in rat hearts. A direct correlation between the amount of heat-shock protein induced and the degree of myocardial protection. Circulation, 89(1), 355–360. https://doi.org/10.1161/01.cir.89.1.355
(4) Heled, Y., Peled, A., Yanovich, R., Shargal, E., Pilz-Burstein, R., Epstein, Y., & Moran, D. S. (2012). Heat acclimation and performance in hypoxic conditions. Aviation, space, and environmental medicine, 83(7), 649–653. https://doi.org/10.3357/asem.3241.2012
(5) Lee, B. J., Mackenzie, R. W., Cox, V., James, R. S., & Thake, C. D. (2015). Human monocyte heat shock protein 72 responses to acute hypoxic exercise after 3 days of exercise heat acclimation. BioMed research international, 2015, 849809. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/849809
I love talking about all things shoe tech. I worked for a few years in various running and outdoor specific stores in Australia. It helped me grow my knowledge on the gear side of the sport, not just from dealing with the gear on a day-to-day basis but also from chatting with customers about their experiences.
I did a similar post last year with road running shoes. So this year, I thought I’d get into the trial side of things for fun. This is a general guide exploring some of the features of the best shoes on the market heading into 2022. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, and I’m by no means an absolute shoe expert, I’ve tried many shoes – but picking a shoe is very personal. Only you can truly know what will work best, and sometimes it will take a bit of trial and error. All a part of the fun of the sport.
Some general rules of thumb include:
For Ultra Races, you’ll want to prioritize shoes with extra protection and decent cushioning. You’re out there for a long time, in variable weather and mixed terrain. Comfort is a must
Durable and breathable upper, and a waterproof upper for alpine and wetter climate racing
A decent lacing system. You don’t want this to get in the way of your race
Room in the toe box for natural swelling in long-distance races.
No heel slip. Make sure that you fit properly in the shoe, don’t try and add things like ‘extra socks’ or ‘inserts’ just to fit a shoe, because you like the look of it or it’s ‘trendy’.
One of Salomon’s newest shoes, the Ultra Glide is a lightweight performance trail shoe that doesn’t compromise on cushioning and comfort for long distances on mixed terrain.
As with most trail shoes, the shoe is a neutral fit, allowing for best foot navigation (no one likes a rolled ankle). You’ll notice that this shoe has a rocker shape (the curve in the sole of the shoe). This is designed to support optimal gait efficiency and the responsiveness of the shoe.
I own a pair of Ultra Glides myself and really enjoy wearing them for faster trail-based efforts like fartleks and tempo runs.
The only thing to consider with this shoe is the upper is fabric-based, with no significant toe cap, so if you’re looking for a lot of foot protection, you may want to explore another option.
Salomon has a great article on how to choose your best trail running shoe – they discuss all the important factors, such as tread, foot support, stability, cushioning, terrain, mileage etc. click here to read more.
The North Face describes this shoe as lightweight, yet not compromising on stability. This is easy to spot given the considerable cushioning and rocker sole. It seems like this feature is going to become increasingly popular as we head into 2022.
I have personally tried this shoe and found it very responsive, which surprised me given the amount of cushioning particularly at the heel. It made for an even, “rolling” feel. It kind of pushed you forward, which is nice.
The only thing to consider with this shoe is that if you’re prone to rolling an ankle, and the terrain is very technical, you may want to consider a shoe with less heel-to-toe drop.
This is a well-cushioned trail running shoe that does well over longer distances, including both wet and dry conditions. The upper mesh is designed for optimal comfort and breathability to support its intended uses over longer distances.
Altra shoes are known for their incorporation of Vibram soles. On this model, they have utilized Vibram® MegaGrip™
I haven’t personally tried this shoe, however, I hear rave reviews from friends. They especially note the great traction as a result of the optimized outsole features.
The Speedgoat 4 sees an upgrade in the upper, with a newer mesh. It was designed to increase the security and support of the overall fit. This is a great improvement to enhance the responsiveness of the shoe over more technical terrain.
This shoe isn’t overly cushioned, ranked mid-way on Hoka’s scale, as ‘balanced’. It is also a neutral shoe – stock standard for trail specific footwear.
I have tried the Speedgoat and found them to be a great responsive, lightweight trail racing shoe. I often find I have issues with the toe box of shoes as I have very narrow feet and long toes. These shoes, along with the Torrent model have somehow designed a toe box that accommodates for a variety of metatarsal structure types.
La Sportiva has designed a very durable and stable shoe for long days out in the mountains, including ultramarathon events. The upper, midsole and outsole are all designed for optimal comfort and stability. Unlike some of the earlier shoes I’ve looked at in this post, this shoe is definitely on the side of stability over extreme lightweight features.
La Sportiva uses Trail Rocker technology to ensure there is outer heel and inner toe support, to optimize your natural running gait. Interestingly, this shoe was inspired by ‘origami’, due to its, “3 sides of a perfect geometry: Shock absorption, protection and comfort.”
I thought I’d include this shoe out of La Sportiva’s collection so there’s a bit of diversity in this article.
It’s in the name. This shoe was designed for ultrarunning races. The shoe has been designed to account for significant amounts of time on feet. That means taking into account swelling of the feet, cushioning, durability, sturdy traction, and the invisible lacing system.
The cushioning is on the higher end for this shoe, as expected for a long-distance model.
Dynafit explains that they have used ‘Heel Preloader Technology’ to provide better support and fit at the heel – another feature that is helpful for ultra-distance races.
Photo sourced from Arc’teryx. Shoe landing page is available here.
This is Arc’teryx’s go-to shoe for long-distance trail races. The update to the initial Norvan shoe release sees a lighter and more durable version. Like Altra, Arc’teryx also uses Vibram® Megagrip outsole technology for sturdy and durable traction.
There is also a decent amount of room in the toe box to account for potential swelling over longer distances. Another key standout, as quoted from the Norvan LD 2 landing page is the integration of, “Long-wearing EVA/Polyolefin midsole.” This helps account for the increased impact when running for substantial distances.
I personally haven’t tried this shoe. It’s definitely on my radar though!
I hope this gives you some good insight into the options on the market at present. There’s something for everyone, but it truly is about knowing your feet, biomechanics, considering your race distance, climate, training load, and terrain. If you can get in-store, that’s always best. Happy Trails ✌️
Strava Clubs are an excellent place to establish a community (a particularly active community) for your brand. I’m a big fan of Strava Clubs for many reasons. Strava Clubs are a great way to connect athletes with similar interests and/or goals in one place. Many businesses and sports clubs want to create a club on Strava for purposes such as connecting their team members, conducting virtual challenges, sharing meaningful content, and keeping each other inspired and accountable with their training goals.
Strava Clubs are interesting from a marketing perspective as they allow an outdoors and athlete-focused brand to establish themselves in a place where they are reaching their key target market. You don’t have to cast your net far and wide to interact with people who may interact with your brand and the community you foster around it.
We can compare it to Instagram to put it in perspective. Our Instagram feed shows us content within our areas of interest. It is designed this way, and we build our profiles in this way – to see exactly what we want, in a quick fix, at our fingertips. For example, my feed is full of posts revolving around outdoor trail running, climate change advocacy and projects, other mountain sports, and of course, content from my friends and family. It’s what I’m interested in and it’s the quickest way for me to fulfill that interest via social media.
What can I do with a Strava Club?
I’m going to talk through each of these below. First, here’s a brief summary – once you’ve set up a Strava Club, you can:
Get your Brand Kit uploaded! – You’ll need a logo and banner within certain pixels for best aesthetics.
Logo – 248x 248 (PNG or JPG)
Banner or Club Header – a minimum of 1200x 580 px, I found 1584 x 396 px was good
Profile Picture – 124 x 124 px (JPG and PNG)
Invite Athletes to join your club and engage with your community
You can invite them via Strava, send them an email link, or even post on your personal profile a link to your club and a CTA to join!
Share your latest content as a discussion – anything from blog articles, race information, strava challenge promotion (for your own club challenge or an official Strava sponsored challenge) – read more about that by clicking here.
Organize meet-ups and strava club events – you can schedule a day, time and place, and invite your Strava Club members to join. If you’re digital marketing savvy, you can promote this across your social platforms. Or, speak to me about this here.
Engage with your club leaderboard – that stats of your club members’ activities will be featured as a leaderboard.
Promote your Strava Club Challenge – I’m not referring to a Strava Sponsored Challenge here. I can show you how to create or leverage a Strava challenge for your club, promote your challenge and determine your winners.
Need my help building a club, learning how to create and promote Strava challenges for your club, or growing your brand presence on Strava in general? Get in touch.
Type in the location you’d like to begin your run from, in the search bar above the map.
Drag your cursor and click to draw your route, clicking to drop a point at your finishing destination. See my screenshot below for an example. I also clicked ‘show 3D terrain’ under map preferences. A new Strava Routes feature.
In the top right-hand corner, hit the bright orange ‘Save’ icon. A pop-up will appear, fill out the details and save them to your routes. See my screenshot.
It’ll then be available as an option for your Strava Club in-person/live event.
I wrote a whole article on Strava Challenges – click here to read it. I will walk you through how you can do each of the options above.
I have worked in Digital Growth Marketing for the past 5 years and am an elite distance runner and outdoor athlete. Let me know if I can help you establish a presence on Strava, or start optimizing your club for brand reach and engagement.
This is the first in a series of posts about Athlete Climate Sustainability. Updated July 2022.
(*Actionpoints are places where I’ve identified calls to action you can do)
Almost all photos are my own, taken with various iPhone cameras, except those taken in Moab.
Tyrolean Alps, Near St Anton am Arlberg, Austria. Taking a break for lunch on a beautiful day.
Athlete Climate Sustainability
Do you know what athletes and the outdoor industry are good at? Solving problems.
Well, we’ve got one of the biggest problems of all to solve right now.
How often do you check the weather? I personally check the weather around 2-3x a day, centered around what training I need to do in the morning and evening, and if I need to get outside work done. Here’s where athlete climate sustainability comes into play.
We need healthy environments to be able to enjoy the outdoors.
We also need educated athletes and the public to be able to enjoy the outdoors responsibly.
Skied up to watch the sunrise over the Kosciuszko Range, NSW, Australia.
Weather patterns are becoming more extreme and/or more confusing in patterns which will no doubt impact when and how you can train, compete and potentially perform your job and outside work (such as gardening, projects, etc.)
“Engage with other people who care…you’ll feel less alone”
– Clare Gallagher (Elite US Trail Runner and Major Climate Advocate)
If you love to be outdoors and be active in nature like myself, it is our responsibility to be aware of how climate change is impacting our training playground and competition localities. Your favourite places to run, ski, surf, bike… We are a part of the environment, not separate from it. We have to start aligning our ways of thinking in that direction. I can’t count the number of times I’ve said to people I’m living or traveling with – “I’m going for a run, I need some time to be alone outside.” I laugh at myself because you are less alone running in the mountains than you are inside a home!
This is why I decided to release a series of researched athlete climate sustainability blog posts to not only help myself become further informed, use my digital space voice I am lucky enough to have, educate other athletes, and play my part in the education piece of sustainable climate practices.
Beautiful Killcare beach, around sunset, NSW, Australia
Climate change affects EVERYONE. Anthropogenic climate change is the number one issue. Anthropogenic means human-caused. It’s not a matter of ‘leaving it up to those in charge’, ‘society labeled or Instagram eco warriors’ or ‘those with an interest in climate change’. Much like the proverb ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. It takes all of us to raise issues of concern and act accordingly.
In the case of climate denialism, one of the primary reasons it exists is because if an individual or group holds a certain belief and they search the internet enough, they will always find content to support the argument whatever that may be. Hopefully, all the fantastic and accurate content available in such a diversity of forms helps some of those individuals who are uncertain shift towards a climate-aware mindset.
Action: It is crucial to learn about athlete climate sustainability as sportspeople, and act accordingly. Whatever area you have the privilege to hold a strong voice in – the workplace, home, school, university, a sporting club, a race organizer, it’s time to use it!
In saying this, this is a massive topic, it would take me years to talk about everything I want to, and I still would want to experience, watch, read, follow and hear more! It can become quite overwhelming. In this post, I’ll focus on how athletes can play a role in climate advocacy and conservation efforts. Essentially, how to be an eco-athlete (I do believe this term shouldn’t exist in the future – we should all be eco athletes in my opinion).
Athletes, sport, and sustainability are becoming a bigger conversation in the sporting world. You’ll notice many athletes are speaking up on social media, sponsors are beginning to voice their opinions, race directors are ensuring their events are ecologically sustainable (that means, no plastic cups, refillable bottles, and packs, ensuring athletes, crew, and aid stations are as minimally invasive to the surroundings as possible etc.) I don’t know about you, but I can’t just train, run for fun, and race. I know I have to make an impact because I care too much, and I believe it is the responsibility of everyone. Not everyone will agree with your decision to speak out, but a majority will.
Just like everything else is an ‘ecosystem’ in essence, the forward path of improvement needs to also be an ecosystem – multiple parts, en masse, working for common goals. If you’re like me, I wanted to know how I could further play a role other than smaller impact activities like cleaning up my local area (which, I’ll continue to do, alongside other things!).
According to Project Drawdown and Trail Runner Magazine (Sourced from Spring 2020 Issue), the best 4 actions an individual can take are:
Avoid air-based travel
Have fewer children
Eat a plant-based diet
Mt. Gower Summit Trail, looking over at Mt. Lidgebird. Lord Howe Island, NSW, Australia
However, it isn’t about prescribing a list of things you ‘need’ to do. It is about doing what you can do, which could mean minimizing the meat you eat, reducing flight and car travel. I am by no means perfect, I travel by air a lot. If you’re like me, make sure you offset your carbon emissions when travelling. Further on in this post I’ll discuss very simple and more complex ways to implement more sustainable practices into your athletic life, and become well versed in Athlete Climate Sustainability.
Remember, to have the ability to train, safe spaces to train, the resources to train and fuel to train is a massive privilege not to be taken for granted. Have a listen to a discussion about this with Caroline Gleich here on Spotify.
So, what actually makes a long-term climate change difference?
Running around Seefeld, Mosern – Austria.
All talk and no action is way too common nowadays. Tom Carroll, Economist and microeconomic excerpt around climate believe that whilst activities such as beach clean-ups and plogga make a small difference, in the grand scheme of things the long-term impact of recruiting those with powerful voices in an array of industries to speak up will have a far larger impact. We can’t leave it up to climate activism industries or large sporting corporations to do all the talking and take all the action.
For example, the head of a multinational finance company begins speaking about climate change in relation to how it will impact their industry specifically.
Action: Instead of the individual and their team simply speaking about it, they engage a CTA (Call-to-action) and start doing. What could doing look like?
Establishing sustainable workplace climate practices and ensuring it is upheld. For example, single-use plastic reduction, recycling, glass and general waste (compost too!)
Incentivize employees to commute to and from the workplace in a more sustainable manner
Where zoom meetings are possible, encourage this to reduce client travel
In newsletter drops, sharing client and staff stories of how they made a short or long term impact, or somewhere outdoors they value and why. This is a bit like storytelling marketing – put a story to the issue, and people are a lot more likely to engage with the content.
Pick an area of impact within the greater climate change issue, and commit to events to fundraise for that area that incorporate employees. It can double as office events and bonding.
Start by identifying what you are most passionate about in the area of sustainable sport.
Falls Creek Altitude Training Camp, 2017.
I know when researching, writing, and collaborating on this content it was easy to become overwhelmed by the enormity of routes I could take in discussing athlete climate sustainability and sustainability in sport in general.
But how do I identify what this is for me?
Action: If you’re a runner or an athlete that competes in a multitude of different environments, I’d suggest figuring out how either your local playground (by playground, I mean outdoor adventure area!) or favourite place to travel for sport or competition is being impacted and start there. It will take some research, but the resources are definitely out there. I listed some at the bottom of this article that may help get you started!
If you’re a swimmer, for example, you likely already hold a passion for movement in the water, so you could begin there! Same for skiing (nordic, alpine, skimo, etc.) – how is your favourite mountain being directly impacted? What resources and groups already exist that you could explore?
Training Partner Extraordinaire Madi and I on a run in the Karwendel Alps, Austria.
There’s a major issue with running shoes and footwear waste in general. If you’ve watched the Salomon Sustainable series – Solving the sample challenge (available here on Youtube) you’ll observe how there is a massive issue with sample shoe production. Salomon has actively reduced their production of sample shoes by switching to 3D digital concept technology and sending 3D samples to reduce CO2 consumption.
New to the scene, NNormal, has the key goal as an outdoor + adventure brand to reduce environmental impact. The mission of NNormal is, ‘ To Inspire people to enjoy and respect nature‘, and won’t be another company that is ‘all talk, no action.’ They will be transparent about their footprint when it comes to the production and consumption cycle of their products. They also value a high sustainable standard for their products – they won’t compromise cost of production for a high environmental impact. You can join their growing community by clicking here to learn about work, trial, and community opportunities.
On Running’s Cyclon shoe – the first circular pair of running shoes which run on a subscription is also groundbreaking. This way, On Running states they do not generate waste, they recycle the shoe. It is made entirely of Castor Beans – from a tree, harvested and processed into a plastic sustainably!
Shipping shoes utilizing non-plastic materials is also ideal, including recycled shoe boxes, which many outdoor industry leaders are doing.
However, we as consumers also need to consider how to reduce our own shoe waste.
Find another use for them. A few of my funky racing flats make for great sneakers. I still wear them to walk in, and do outdoor chores.
Enquire at your local running store, more often than not they will have either a donation bin or shoe drive.
Reduce Single-Use Plastics
I was stand-up paddle boarding in Hardy’s Bay around sunset, on the central coast of New South Wales, Australia. I was very lucky to see a turtle on this particular outing. On my paddle back to the dock, I noticed a plastic bottle bobbing around in the sea foam. Having just encountered a turtle a little further out in the bay, I immediately was saddened by the common reality of litter floating around in water bodies, or entering the waterways.
It’s our responsibility to lead by example, here are a few:
Enquire at your local food joints about single-use plastics, if they haven’t jumped on board a sustainable path yet.
Fabric wrap your gifts.
Invest in sustainable fashion and gear, not fast fashion – look for bamboo and cork in gear.
This is a great video from Patagonia regarding waste and human consumption in relativity to clothing. Click here to watch it.
Without the ocean, we would not be here. Unfortunately, microplastics, dumping, oil rigs and drilling, and overfishing to name a few, are leaders in adversely impacting the environment. Increased atmospheric CO2 levels also have an impact, leading to increased acidity, warmer oceans, increased ocean temps, and the decay of shell-based organisms.
What can you do? The suggestions in this post that guide you in reducing your carbon footprint, reducing single-use plastics, and being mindful of where you pour liquid wastes (for example, if you wash your car) are all good starts. Take 3 for the sea is also a very good micro-initiative. If you’re around a body of water, take 3 pieces of trash with you and dispose of it properly.
Travel for Competition and Training
When traveling for competition and training, travel responsibly. This means:
Travelling in groups (where possible) to reduce transportation means
Offsetting flight emissions
Holding virtual meetings where possible to reduce travel
Competing in and supporting local events
Mend gear, instead of buying or requesting new gear for travel. You don’t need a new jacket if it can be mended.
Event organizers and sponsors should make every effort to be free of plastic cups and dispose of all wrappers (gels!!) responsibly. Entrants should be encouraged to carry refillable water packs/handhelds etc. in endurance events.
Sourcing race fuel from local businesses is also a great idea. Prizes from local companies are also forward-thinking sustainable decisions.
Races with a high budget should avoid using helicopters where possible, particularly for the purpose of content creation. Drones are way better anyway!
For athletes, remember:
If you pack it in, pack it out
Make sure you do your business far away from any water source
Stick to the marked course.
Water and packs (tips and tricks)
Don’t drink straight from the stream (in most cases), iodine is the lightest water purifier for water, then something like SteriPEN and a portable filter is next.
Always go for a running water source, and upstream is best.
Eating Sustainably for Athletes
Anna’s Vegie Dahl Recipe – Thank you Anna!
I understand it is not easy for everyone to go entirely plant-based. The UN Climate Report of 2019 called for people to eat less meat. As an athlete, it is possible to fuel yourself and do this. Try having meat-free days, and experiment with other forms of protein for cooking. This could look like, and by no means limited to:
Tofu – you can get silken, moderately silken, firm, or extra firm (all have different purposes!)
Tempeh – Try pressing them in a sandwich press after marinating in brown rice syrup and soy sauce, great in stir frys and buddha bowls of sorts.
Eggs from cage-free, free-range sources (or if you’ve got enough land and time, invest in some chickens!)
Anna suggests that you could try replacing beef with kangaroo meat, as this is much more sustainable and ecologically friendly. Kangaroo meat is more ‘chewy’, high in iron, and lean. We suggest cooking it in a curry or fragrant dish. Try this Kangaroo Coconut Curry.
Local Cave Running Adventures
Awesome Endurance athlete Sebastian Salsbury (@sebrunsfar) recently posted on Instagram about creating a blanket from race old t-shirts. Creative ideas like this are a great alternative to donating to charity, which often is inundated with old t-shirts anyway.
Fixing old gear might take a bit of time, but it’s cheaper and much better for the environment.
Plogging is the act of jogging or hiking (or any movement in general) and collecting trash/rubbish. The word plogging was created by combining ‘jogging’ with ‘plocka up’, a Swedish term for ‘picking up’. Struggling to get out to train? Incorporate plogga for a bit of fun.
Vote to elect those who are willing to speak
We need collective and individual action to vote ourselves, and educate others on how crucial it is to vote for those who will speak in the places where legislation is made.
Use your voice and create content.
Social media and increasing access to digital platforms has allowed for more people to promote their values on the internet. Whilst this can be a negative thing in some cases, such as the spread of misinformation, when it comes to climate action it’s time to speak up. Creating shareable content such as Instagram reels around athlete climate sustainability is a fantastic idea.
Sponsored athletes who may have content support and extra leverage should use these resources to advocate. It is so important to utilize your influence and voice to make an impact. Athletes more often than not are a well-respected voice in society, who people are willing to listen to. We need to set ambitious goals and be bold.
Big changes come from above. I am reading a great book called ‘Culture Code’ which stresses this. Amazing athlete Emilie Fosberg has also emphasized this point. Learn and seek education.
Yosemite Valley, Yosemite NP
What parts are you most interested in? Learn more about those. Ultimately, sustainable athletes have sustainable skills for any scenario. Refreshing your skills is also important – just like when learning to climb, or in the backcountry.
Why are sports so critical for sustainability?
Millions of people have an interest in sports and sports-people. I could prove this by showing the target market range on the backend of facebook ad manager when designing video advertising campaigns. Sports are an amazing platform to voice facts, tell sport specific stories related to climate, and conversations centralized around climate change. Rather than create new platforms, a more efficient way of communication is using those that already exist.
Sport can promote grassroots actions, such as those in the sports team, outdoor company or individual’s local community
Since outdoor sports people are the ones relying on the environment to play or do the activity, it is important that these environments still exist in the future to continue these activities. Hence the crucial importance of sustainable athletes and sustainable sporting actions.
How has climate affected athletes?
Tyrolean Alps, Austria (An all-time favourite of mine)
Increased extreme weather
From lengthy periods of time in extremely unhealthy AQI levels due to mass wildfires and bushfires, rainouts, heat as discussed above and increasing severity of storms – the changing weather patterns will have a significant impact on the ability to train and compete in sports. According to a NASA study, around 75% of the Swiss alps glaciers will have melted by 2050. The Norwegian National Nordic team trained in Italy this year as there was less snow in Norway than usual. Snowfall levels are dropping, and rising temperatures in normally arctic environments are causing massive changes in ecological systems (and most definitely all these changes aren’t visible to the human eye). New species actually get created in snow algae as the temperature warms.
Rising Temperatures: Heat and Athlete Health
Lucky Peak State Park, Idaho. Thick smoke in September from the wildfires.
During my middle school years, I fondly remember some touch football games where we were expected to play in 40 degrees celsius, or 104 Fahrenheit. That’s around 1 hour of running and sprinting in blazing heat. I believe the rules around play and heat are stricter now, but at the time it was pretty unsafe. The only way we made it through was with constant substitutions, ice, and shaded cool off sports. Unfortunately days reaching these temperatures are becoming more frequent as time passes which puts many sports at risk.
Further, many events may have to be cancelled in the future, such as ultra marathons in extreme climates due to the participant and event organizing team health risks being too high.
A series of two papers on heat and health were released by the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the University of Washington (Lancet 2021; 398: 698–708). The first paper identified the health risks of hotter weather and heat extremes.
The paper discussed the concerning increase in deaths and illness as a result of extreme temperatures. To quote the paper, “Robust evidence of the relationships between hot weather and morbidity and mortality is being augmented with growing evidence of other effects, including on occupational works, and professional and recreational athletes.” (704-405).
The thing is, we don’t even understand the full-scope of risk yet. The paper brings attention to the fact that heat-related health issues and deaths from the “first two decades of the 21st century will be poor predictors of risks over the coming decades.” (698) All the more reason to mitigate the risks now.
Running Mt. Superior with Alyssa, Northern Utah
The key takeaway from the first of this two paper series was:
“without urgent investments in research and risk management actions, climate change will continue to increase heat-related hazards, and associated morbidity and mortality.”
We will have to hold events and training in different areas as we shift into warmer climates and more extreme weather patterns. This will impact sports (but not limited to) such as running, skiing, hiking and open water swimming.
A prime example I can think of is ultramarathons conducted in desert environments. In Australia with rising temperatures, it could become almost impossible to run these types of events.
Externally to sport, the amount of people including indigenous communities being displaced is a massive issue. Climate refugees are being forced to evacuate their homes because of these environmental shifts which make the land uninhabitable. I recently watched a documentary on this topic for the native people of Kazakhstan who rely on horses and livestock to live.
How do sports affect the environment?
Nordic Skiing in Silverstar, Canada
Sports affect the environment considerably, as we move in nature every day. It is crucial that we conduct our sports and events sustainably to ensure that the very environments we train and race in still exist in the future.
Whilst we may be more environmentally aware as outdoor sports people, the sports we play and do have more adverse impacts on the environment than most other sports.
Issues such as microplastic shedding from clothes and gear is prominent, highlighted via testing of grasses and forms of moss in the mountains and trails – you could plot a map of high human traffic, even if we believe we are not leaving a trace. A few awesome climate-conscious companies are working on creating clothes and gear that do not shed in the wash and prevent this microplastic shedding. Make sure you read the label of the gear you buy, buy for durability and lifelong use (no fast fashion!), and from climate-conscious companies.
Race organizers, spectators and competitors also have a duty to the environment. Carbon Neutral events are a must goal for the future. A wonderful research article published by Pamela Wicker from Australia and New Zealand highlights how “participants in nature sports had the highest (CO2 equivalent) emission levels.” However, Wicker highlighted how environmental consciousness does reduce these levels on the larger scale. This is where smaller habits, education and speaking out are key.
Educate and involve yourself as an athlete with these resources:
Utilize your digital platforms to speak up, and lead by example. Make the changes in your life, in your industry’s field, and ask others to follow suit. It is imperative that we all get involved in some way or another. This guide can help you find local groups and companies who are taking actions towards the global climate crisis. I hope you find it helpful.
Blue Pools, Idaho. Around half an hour later, we had hiked down into the canyon.
A summary of sustainable and climate conscious habits you can action now (*Action):
Click here to visit Reach Not Preach, a forum of youth voices for climate including youth voice for climate.
Stay educated in areas which spark your interest. The climate crisis can feel overwhelming, so it can be a better idea to focus on areas you are particularly passionate about.
Stay in touch about the next #thehumanrace which directly involves athletes and your training!
Carry around a reusable bag (in your car, in your bike bag, folded in your handbag) so you can avoid using a plastic bag if the opportunity presents.
Forfeit a few coffees a month and donate $10-20 to an organization of your choice. Most of us can do this. I do this.
Carry a refillable water bottle, preferably made from more ecologically-sound materials.
Buy clothing that is durable and long lasting, and repair it when possible. Better to buy expensive and quality once, than less quality twice!
Implement meat-free days in your diet, or regular meals.
Get a compost bin, and ensure you recycle – even better, recycle each component.In Switzerland I remember me and my cousin would walk to the recycling depot and separate each component, it was fantastic. In Australia, I use a Bokashi Bin for compost. This is even possible if you live in higher density living areas.
Walk and Bike more, use a car less. Even public transport is a better option.
Carbon offset your travel – most airlines will offer you this.
Look for tags when shopping that indicate the company you are purchasing from is conscious of sustainable practice and is making an effort to make their apparel and gear more climate friendly.
Race in events that are sustainable, and if they aren’t, write to the race organization team asking for alternatives to plastic cups, wrappers and other non-sustainable activities.
Start speaking up on your social media. Now’s the time to use your voice for something bigger than your own personal achievements in sport.
If you’re a sponsored athlete, have open discussions with your sponsor about their sustainability practices, how you can best use your voice to raise concerns and bring attention to climate action events. Also make sure you’re aware of your sponsor’s climate policies and/or sustainability pledge.
The Athlete Climate Academy was established by renowned adventure athletes Kilian Jornet and Huw James. They speak about various topics weekly, and hold live seminars each month online which all are welcome to participate in! The Athlete Climate Academy Session 3 is on September 24th 2021. This is a sensible time for my European and US Friends. For my Aussie friends, this is 3am, and my US Friends, I believe a lot of Australians will still be in lockdown, so if ever there’s been a time to stay up for something, I highly recommend this.
Otherwise, give the podcast a listen – it is one of the easiest ways to learn more in any sub-topic.
The Athlete Climate Academy Podcast is great. If you’re a spotify user you can listen to an episode (or 3!) by clicking here. If you’re an apple podcast kinda person, click here.
An amazing podcast about all things outdoors, including important discussions around sustainable practice when getting out and amongst it. Click here to listen on apple podcasts.
A Few Ideas for Local Involvement and Action
Runners 4 public lands (USA)
Runners for public lands recognize that climate change is the most important issue at present. RPL helps connect the running community to resources that help mitigate climate change and reduce its impacts. RPL advocates across a variety of sectors, including Climate Action, Environmental Sustainability, Equitable Access and Public Lands.
Become a member and get exclusive access to RPL events and store discounts. Click here.
Bushcare, Landcare and Coastcare (Australia)
Bushcare, Landcare and Coastcare groups exist in abundance across Australia. In my suburb where I grew up in Sydney there is a different group for almost every nature reserve. I volunteered for Bushcare throughout most of my middle and high school career. It is only a few hours each week, or every odd week depending on the group you choose. These groups help to maintain or rehabilitate areas that are degraded. You can even hop around groups – super convenient! Click here to learn more.
Ironically, outdoor sports people have a greater connection to nature than most other sports, however, we leave a bigger carbon footprint. Therefore, it is crucial we are educated about how exactly we impact the climate, and mitigate our impacts as much as possible, especially when we are outside doing what we love.
This is an excellent website, with Calls to Action for the athlete. I sourced this from Outdoor Friendly Pledge website:
Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge
This is a personal favourite project to follow – uniting major brands and outdoor focused entities for inclusion and diversity. It is important that all have a voice in matters concerning the environment. If we don’t promote diversity and inclusion, then we will never have the strength in voices and action we need. Click here to learn more.
Join THE COOL DOWN
This is a movement for athletes, centered around making significant change in the world and addressing the climate crisis as a team. Sign up here.
Don’t own an electric car, but want to offset your emissions? Go Neutral!
By purchasing a Go Neutral Vinyl Sticker for your car, you’re purchasing 3.2 tonnes of carbon offsets. Click here to learn more.
Learn about the projects at The Kilian Jornet Foundation
Amazing and respected athlete Kilian Jornet has established and dedicated his time to an array of projects to lay the foundations of a better sustainable future. The foundation is directly affiliated with some of the projects I’ve discussed above, however here is the link to learn more about other projects, including the retreat of glaciers and educational resources: Click here.
Stay aware and up-to-date on Instagram with Climate focused accounts and organizations
(non-exhaustive, just touching on it here!)
Mountain and land related:
@anturuseducation (Athlete Climate Academy)
@summit.ngo ( Swiss, lower human impact on the environment)
@plogga (Swedish! – run with a purpose!)
@beachcleanups (Australia and Japan)
@Waveslobitos (act local, surf global – sustainable surf travel)
An E-book guide for athletes will be released super soon. Stay tuned.
– There is no planet B –
A big thank you to the amazing Land Care Environmentalist and Lord Howe Island local Anna Charlton-Shick, who provided insightful points surrounding eating sustainably, reducing single-use plastics, and ocean awareness. Anna can be found on Instagram here: @annacharltonshick
How To Have More Energy For Running: The ROI’s of Sport
Written in conjunction with a sports medicine specialist, ex-elite athlete, and consulting of a variety of accredited sources.
ROI in digital marketing means the return on investment. We calculate ROI by figuring out how much we have invested in ads, and how much revenue we’ve made as a result of those advertising investments. If our ROI is low, we have to figure out why, and a solution to improve. It’s a matter of updating, refreshing, and/or rethinking, most often. In training the other day, I thought about how similar this is to being a competitive athlete. What we put in, including the 1%’s like sleep, nutrition, and forms of recovery all add up to a better ROI for the athlete.
This inspired me to write an article on Energy, Fatigue, and Running. How can we increase our ROI, whilst maintaining a healthy balance between sport and life outside of sport.
For many individuals, exercise can increase energy levels, but did you know that there are many other ways to do this? For athletes that train in high loads, a buildup of fatigue is very natural, and quite often exercise won’t be the best source of ‘gaining’ energy.
I will go over some easy tips for running more efficiently and how they can help you have more energy for running and other training in general. One way is by setting a goal for yourself that has nothing to do with how many miles you intend to cover during each jog. It could be a location destination, a sunset observation, planning to meet up with a team or a friend, or a podcast you’ve been waiting to listen to.
Setting goals related specifically to what kind of pace you’d like to achieve (i.e., faster than normal or average) can also help you have more energy when running. You don’t have to look at splits, you can go by feel as well. In fact, I often think this is the better approach when leading a busy life outside of training demands.
Why Do I Have No Energy When I Run?
This is a loaded question. There are a large array of reasons why someone may feel as if they have no energy when they run. Often, if medical issues are ruled out, it can be a result of one or a combination of sleep, nutrition, and recovery.
When you wake up in the morning, do you feel like jogging around your neighborhood or taking a spin class at the gym? It’s easy to get motivated when it’s still dark outside and all you can think about is coffee. But what happens after lunchtime rolls around? Often at times, people will skip a workout because they are tired or feel too lazy to exercise. Get it done early, before the distractions of the day set in.
A lack of energy can also be a result of a calorie deficit. If you haven’t fuelled enough the day before, and wake up hungry, you’ll lack energy for your workout. I am a big fan of the pre-training snack. This can be something as simple as a banana, or a small bowl of cereal 1hr to 30 minutes before training, depending on intensity and time constraints.
Keep easy days easy, and hard days hard.
Athletes are often given programs by their coaches, which have the various sessions set out to ensure adequate recovery after high-intensity sessions, and longer slower sessions factored in. However it’s very common to see athletes who during their long slow sessions become bored, and speed up, turning it into a long hard session, or who, for example, whilst cycling in a group, see someone going off the front, and can’t help themselves by chasing – and so, the session turns into a fartlek/sprint session. This will then drain the athletes’ energy systems so that they may not recover adequately for their next session, and over time can result in burnout.
How Can I Increase My Energy For Running?
Sleep and Running
Sleep is the only time the body entirely recovers. I would be as bold to say it is the best thing you can do to put an extra edge on your physical performance. If you are having trouble sleeping, then this can lead to decreased energy levels when running. Put simply, a lack of sleep often causes your body temperature and heart rate to change so that it is more difficult for the muscles in your body to function as they should during exercise. While you may want to catch up on rest during the weekend, it is best not to break your normal sleeping schedule too much.
Getting quality REM sleep and (Rapid eye movement sleep) deep sleep are important in order to have more energy when running. These are two different stages of sleep. High REM sleep quality allows us to perform better mentally, and a lack of REM sleep is often the cause of that common feeling of sleep deprivation.
If you know someone who tends to have insomnia or stays up late at night working on a computer or watching television, then you may want to consider getting them blackout curtains for their bedroom. You could even take it a step further and download f.lux to adjust the lighting on your laptop, and wear blue light filtering glasses in the evenings to promote the production of melatonin. A good night’s sleep will help keep energy levels even throughout the day and make training much more enjoyable overall.
Blue Light and Melatonin – Get outdoors in the morning!
Make sure you step outside in the morning when daylight or sunlight is up. Our body is designed to wake up better with light, and even better if you look at the ‘blue’ in the sky. It signals that it is the beginning of the day and to halt the production of melatonin.
If you’re an evening runner or have a double, although you may be tempted to go home and take a nap after work instead of going on your run, there are some ways to make exercising at this time much easier and even fun!
Vitamin D for Runners – Natural energy from the sun.
Many people report a boost in energy when exposed to direct sunlight. What is the connection between Vitamin D, sunlight, increased energy, and improved mood? There are many studies that show the link between Vitamin D levels and depression. People living with chronic pain conditions like Fibromyalgia often report symptoms of depression because their condition can be very difficult to manage and has a poor prognosis that makes it feel hopeless. The good news on this topic is quite encouraging!
Vitamin D is a great supplement to existing treatment plans for depression, chronic pain conditions, and fatigue. However, if you can get your daily dose of vitamin D naturally – from sunlight (even 10 minutes is great!), and foods such as oily fish, red meats, egg yolks, and cheese for example that is even better. For vegans, some food sources high in Vitamin D are mushrooms, fortified plant milk, and cereals. Mushrooms are the best natural plant source of Vitamin D. Ultimately, sunshine is king.
Some people do feel better after taking a single dose of Vitamin D consistently. It’s important to realize that taking Vitamin D on an ongoing basis will have continuing benefits on your mood.
Some people like to have a cup of coffee before heading out for training. If timed well, this can be extremely beneficial. In fact, I wrote an entire article on coffee for runners. This article included how to time your caffeine intake, how caffeine can be taken in different forms and some of the negative side effects of coffee. Give it a read by clicking the link here: https://larahamilton.com/coffee-for-runners/
While coffee may help boost your energy levels, if you are not used to caffeine before high-impact activity, it can be a cause of GI problems which can shut down your run entirely. It’s important to train yourself to eat and drink before you run, so when race day comes along, it’s like clockwork.
Considering this, some people prefer to only have caffeine around race day. If you’re like me, I chose to drink Matcha (green tea powder), green tea or Decaf coffee the weeks leading up to a race, and only drink coffee close to race time for a potential performance enhancing effect.
Build up energy for running long distances
For runners starting out, setting small goals will make exercising much more manageable because they are easier to achieve (i.e., walk around a block one time). Once these smaller tasks feel easy enough, then move onto another goal until finally working up toward whatever big fitness wish list item has been on hold for so long. You can even start with run-walks, as athletes returning from injury must do.
This can look something like 1-minute walk, 1-minute run, repeated 10-20 times depending on where you’re at with fitness or recovery.
Also, remember not to be too hard on yourself when you don’t reach an initial goal right away. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
For seasoned runners, energy increase and fatigue resistance comes with consistency in training and scheduled recovery periods. Be patient, and it will come. This is why it is called training or practice.
Strength Training for Distance Training
If you want to reduce fatigue and get faster, lift weights. I’m sick of hearing about injured distance runners who do no resistance training.
Think about it like this – if you’re pounding your body as a high-level runner for 50 miles a week, that’s a lot of stress through the whole system. Muscular, skeletal, and even cellular. You want to be doing everything within your control to make sure you can sustain that load and rock up to the start line uninjured….. and beyond the start line through the race.
If you are looking for a way to have more energy when running, then consider adding strength training into the mix. If guided correctly by a knowledgeable strength and conditioning specialist or exercise physiologist, this will allow you to gradually build muscles and therefore build up muscular endurance so that running doesn’t become difficult halfway through every workout session. Strength training can also be done in conjunction with various forms of cross-training exercises like biking, paddling, or swimming because they work in a variety of muscle groups and go through different ROM (range of motions).
Strengthen your bones for running
Our bones love different stimuli – that is how to strengthen bones. Repetitive sports, such as distance running, only strengthen your bones on a certain plane. Adding in a variety of sports will strengthen them on different planes and vectors.
This is why cross-training should be included in a running program. It has a purpose, not just for recovery from injury.
So how important is it to stretch before a run?
Yes, stretching is an important part of any workout routine because it helps you warm up and prepare for exercising at higher intensities so that your muscles don’t feel as tired when running. However, what is more, important is using the right muscles and then you’ll find, you won’t need to stretch as much. For most people, the deep postural stabilizers, also known as your “core” are not firing correctly. I’m not talking about the superficial “6-pack abs” here, these muscles are much deeper than that.
You can have visible abs and little “core” strength. These are deep muscles that can’t be seen. This is a very complex topic which I will explore in a future post. If you’re interested in reading more on this and improving your biomechanics and body alignment, head over to TIE (The Invisible Exercise) by clicking here.
What will give me energy before a run?
How To Have An Energy Boost Before Running – Take a rest day or a down week!
Recovery is a part of your training program – it is just as important as the training!
You’re not a machine. You’re human, and you have to respect the body. Give it the time to strengthen and recover. Gains are made when we rest and repair.
If you feel as though your body needs a day off from exercising, then don’t be afraid to take one. Your mind and muscles will thank you for giving them the rest they need before starting up again with another training cycle.
In fact, having a down week every 4-6 weeks is super important to ensure the body absorbs the work you’ve put in, and decreases the risk of injury. Time it up with your key races if you can, working with your coach and team commitments if you have one.
There was an article on this in the recent issue of Australian Trail Running Magazine, if you can get your hands on a copy.
How Diet Affects Energy For Running
This is very simple. Energy intake has to equal energy output.
The biggest mistake long-distance runners make is not realizing the high level of calories they need to balance the energy equation. Most long-distance runners have low energy availability. This doesn’t just affect the body in its appearance.
It affects every single system in the body. Here are a few examples:
The gastrointestinal tract, causing slow transit time
Psychologically, with interrupted sleep patterns
Neurologically, it reduces coordination and strength
Changes the metabolism, so instead more fat is stored in the liver
It affects bone mineral density
Increases risk of injury
A healthy balanced diet can be obtained from a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, carbohydrates, alongside healthy and diverse fat and protein sources. We don’t actually need to spend gazillions of dollars on fancy supplements.
So, low energy input equals low energy output. I’m a big fan of eating before training in the morning. It doesn’t have to be a full meal, but working out fasted isn’t helping me achieve my goals of high-quality workouts and speed, strength, and endurance gains from these workouts.
What should runners eat for breakfast?
People who run regularly in the morning are often advised to have a healthy and balanced breakfast before heading outside for their daily jog or workout session. This will help keep blood sugar levels even throughout the day so that energy is sustained with each passing hour. This is even more important for insulin-resistant individuals, like me. I wrote an article about my normal pre-race and pre-session breakfasts here, including examples: https://larahamilton.com/5k-meal-plan/
The Impact of Alcohol On Running
While having a few drinks might seem like the perfect way to unwind after work, it can have some negative side effects on your body for running. Alcohol can dehydrate your body and cause muscle cramps if you have too much, so it is best to avoid drinking /running (especially if you are thirsty and need to replenish your body’s water levels).
Further, drinking will impact sleep. You may be able to achieve deep sleep, which can help muscular repair, however, the mentally restorative stages of sleep (REM) following the deep sleep stage, are rarely reached as the body is working overtime to process the alcohol consumed.
In conclusion, there are many ways to increase your overall energy before and after a run. I hope you take these tips and incorporate them into your daily regimen!
The top tips, summarized.
Nutrition during exercise > 60 minutes
Adequate CHO (carbohydrates) in the first 15 minutes after an endurance race
Sleep 8 hours minimum per night
Understanding that mental and physical recovery is as important as training strategies.
Ensuring there is a balance in life with some social and recreational activities, specific recovery actions such as massage, sports psychology, ice baths (if you are into them) stretching, and appropriate strengthening work.
Work-life balance and recovery are particularly an issue in long-distance triathletes, ultra runners, and adventure racers.
In athletes who participate in tournaments and regattas, ensuring adequate hydration and nutrition between bouts and races will diminish feelings of fatigue.
Overall though, making sure that one has a range of interests, not just work and training, to maintain a healthy mental state. Mental fatigue can be a major source of physical fatigue.
If you’re like me and like to explore new places on foot (or occasionally, bike or ski), optimizing your ability to create Strava segments and follow your creations is a must.
Making use of the awesome create segment Strava feature is a must for any premium strava user. If you’re paying for Strava Premium, you may as well optimize your experience. I see and hear of many users who aren’t even aware of half of the things they can do with a premium membership. I write these articles to educate you on how to make the most of your Strava Membership and experience. Need more help? – click to contact me here.
Create a Strava Segment feature/Create a route that allows you to plan training routes, including elevation, surface, distance, and projected time on feet, set up segment-based Strava challenges for your club or business, and explore new outdoor playgrounds for prospective training.
To make your own segment on Strava is now relatively easy. The use the create segment Strava feature, however, you need to be a Strava Premium user.
All Strava users can, however, compete on segments and score on a leaderboard. To appear on leaderboards the user needs to have the activity in public, not private or followers only. Cue notorious Strava Segment hunters!
Here’s how to create segment on Strava using the Strava website. First, click on the Explore tab dropdown menu on the top of the webpage, and click create a route. See my screenshot below:
Next, you’ll need to type in the search bar, where I’ve typed ‘Mount Hood, Oregon’ as an example in, the location where you would like to create a strava segment.
In the screenshot below, I’ve selected a road in Boise, Idaho.
The orange line on N Cartwright Road is one I’ve drawn. The map is interactive, meaning you can click and draw lines on the most reasonable roads/accessible by foot areas on the map.
I began this segment example on N Bogus Basin road and finished it at an intersection on N Cartwright Road (please note, this is for example only, I haven’t actually created this as a segment).
Notice all the options on the left-hand menu – I click to ‘Show Segments’ under Map Preferences, to see what areas around me already have segments. This prevents me from potentially creating a duplicate Strava segment.
Once you’re happy with the segment you’ve created, check the elevation, distance, and other stats in the horizontal stat bar on the bottom of the map, click the ‘Save’ icon (bright orange, far left corner of the screen).
Next, you’ll be prompted to save your route and customize it. See the screenshot below.
My Routes: Running your own Strava Segment
You can find your created Routes or Strava Segments under the Dashboard tab, and the dropdown menu which has a ‘My Routes’ option. See the screenshot below for example.
So, how do you follow/run/ride/ski/hike your route? There are a few ways…
Follow your Strava Segment on the Strava Mobile App
If you literally want to follow your Strava segment on the Strava Mobile App (this would mean you need to carry your phone with you), it is very simple.
Go to the record screen, and hit Routes.
There’ll be an option to ‘Use Route’ – hit that. Boom.
Export your Strava Segment onto a GPS Device
If you have a Garmin Watch that supports Courses, you can export your route data to your watch. First, you have to make sure that Strava Courses/Routes connection is enabled between your GPS device and Strava.
There are 2 ways to do this – from the Garmin Connect App, and The Garmin Connect Website.
Enable Strava to Garmin connection via the Garmin Connect Website
On the Garmin Website in your User/Account information, make sure Strava has permission to access Activities and Courses. Both toggles should be switched on to green.
Next, Sync your Strava Segments and/or Routes to your Garmin
Now that Strava and Garmin are synced, it’s time to import the Strava Segment and/or route onto your watch. To do this, make sure your route is both public, and ‘starred’. What the heck does ‘Starred’ mean?
See my screenshot below.
This is the Strava website view – I’ve starred my ultra training long run so I can upload it to my watch. Again, I got to ‘My Routes’ under the dropdown ‘Dashboard’ menu running horizontally at the top of the Strava Website. The Star is to the left, next to the title. Any starred routes will appear in the ‘Courses’ folder of your Garmin watch after you next sync it with Strava.
On the mobile app, you can also star your routes. Go into maps and type in your desired location. For me, I’ve used Sydney Olympic Park as an example. See the Screenshot below.
Next, I clicked on the first route option, ‘See details’. I was taken to the next screenshot below.
If you hit ‘Save’, you’ll get taken to another page where you can ‘star’ the route. Hitting Save I believe automatically stars the route and adds it to your saved route page, seen earlier. From there, you can go to the record page and select the icon I’ve screenshot below, to get access to your saved and starred routes.
Export your Strava Segment via GPX or TCX file.
On the screenshot above, you’ll see two tabs below the title. One is Export GPX and one is Export TCX. These options are here in case the other options for Syncing routes are not possible for you.
If you already have a maps feature installed on your GPS device, I suggest exporting in GPX form. The opposite is true if you don’t – then export it in TCX. Plug your device into your laptop, and drag it to the necessary maps folder. The device will often be recognized as a USB if it requires a TCX file.
Print out your Segment Map. I am not joking. Strava Suggests this
As I have written above. Old Skool.
For more info on sharing and exporting routes across different devices, see Strava’s own article by clicking the link here: Strava Support – Routes
Strava Segment Explore
Segment Explore on Strava is the place where you can explore already existing segments for all sports available on Strava, and varied surface types/elevation and routes.
My screenshot above of a Strava Explore example I conducted for the Mount Hood, Oregon area – known for its trails and outdoor sports. Here I explored all segments for ‘Running’ and of ‘All’ variety, which options are available to the right of the search bar.
How do I use Strava Segments?
Every time you go for a ride, run, or walk, once you upload your activity to Strava, any segments you completed will appear in your activity summary. If your activity is on public, you may appear on the leaderboard. If you were particularly fast on that day, you may achieve a trophy or crown. All part of the fun of Strava.
Are Strava Segments free?
Competing in Strava Segments is entirely free, however, the create segment Strava feature is for premium members only at present.
Why does Strava not show all segments?
The Strava mobile app or Strava website may not show all segments if you have filtered out certain surfaces, or it is accidentally set on another sport. Make sure surface type is set to ‘all’ and you are looking at segments from your sport of choice.
If Strava segments aren’t appearing on your activity, it could be because your GPS has drifted or uncalibrated during the activity, or you’ve paused your watch during the segment.
Strava Club Challenges using a Strava Segment
When you create a Strava Segment, it generates a URL. Copy and paste the URL from the route page on the Strava Website and paste it into the bio of your club. See my screenshot for an example below:
Make sure the segment is set to public. The ‘JULY SEGMENT CHALLENGE: (URL)’, allows people to run the route and record a time. At the end of the month, I’ll check the leaderboard for the route, and filter it out by just members of the club. This will show me who has recorded the fastest times.
Still need help? Contact me by filling out the form below.
Salomon Running: Adventures in Moab at the Salomon Running Academy
My experience at the Salomon Running Academy is hard to capture in words. The people, the running, and the atmosphere were so welcoming and enthusiastic that it was very hard not to smile the entire time. We would be in constant anticipation of the next adventure around the corner. The phrase ‘once in a lifetime experience’ is tossed around a lot in this day and age, but it truly was for me. This experience at Salomon Ultra Running Academy was an extremely happy time in what has been a hard and testing past 8 months. It has taken me a while to write this post, but here it finally is!
Salomon as a brand has always embodied the mentality of having fun in sporting endeavors and treating the outdoors as one big playground (whilst having respect and as much of a symbiotic relationship with the natural world as possible, see Salomon Sustainability Pledge), hence their hashtag and catch-line #timetoplay. I have loved the brand since I started competitively nordic skiing in primary school, and then in my transition to running, and more specifically distance trail running. So, when I received the email that I had been selected as one of 16 very lucky ducks for Salomon Running Academy USA in Moab, Utah, I was over the moon. I was so excited I had a solo personal dance party. My downstairs neighbors obviously heard my celebratory outcry and ruckus I was making upstairs and texted to ask if I was ok out of concern. Important details to include, to explain just how excited I was. As fate had it, I received the email straight after I finished my final graduate university exam. Moab had been on my adventure list for a while.
The 4 days at Salomon Ultra Running Academy went by extremely quickly – time flies when you’re having fun, as they say. I’m going to do my absolute best to capture the experience.
The Salomon Running Academy team traveled from all around America (Utah, Colorado, Oregon, North Carolina, New Hampshire, California…) to meet at the stunning Red Cliffs Resort in the middle of Moab. The resort was down in the valley, hugged by the Colorado River and tucked in below the red rock cliffs. One thing I’ve always loved about America is the diversity of the geography and climate. I’d traveled from the highland desert of Idaho to the highland desert of Utah, yet both were extremely unique and different.
Once we arrived, we were introduced to our new friends, team, and coaches for the next few days. We were extremely lucky to be coached by Salomon Athletes Max King, Courtney Dauwalter, Jamil Coury, Jeffrey Stern, Olivia Amber, and Preston Johnson. I’ve watched every Salomon TV running and backcountry skiing film ever and gained so much stoke from them – so it was amazing to meet these amazing athletes in person. The wonderful runners from around America that I met each had their own interesting backstories and trail tales and laughter to share over the miles we ran. We were so lucky to receive Salomon gear for the camp (like one big Salomon Christmas!), including the Salomon S/Lab Sense 8 Soft and Hard Ground shoes. The Soft Ground shoes came in handy would you believe it, because it rained (!) in Moab on Day 3.
We left the lodge in the afternoon for a much-needed run at Fisher Towers. The trail out and back is around 6.8km (just over 4 miles), 358 (1175ft) of elevation, and breathtaking views. Our colorful Salomon kits added a burst of color to the trademark red of the rocks and towers surrounding us. This run took us a long time because we had so much fun stopping to admire the views, take photos and film content zooming around the trails, and jumping over rocks. I wouldn’t recommend trying to boulder on most of the rocks, I learnt the hard way that the rock is very loose! It is moments like these that you cherish, where you’re completely in the moment and everything feels at peace. I respect these moments because they don’t happen all the time – luckily, this trip was full of them, and LOTS of laughter.
By the time we’d finished our adventure run, the storm which we saw across the valley earlier in the run began to settle in. It was a much-needed relief from the heat and reminded me of the summer evening storms in Australia that I grew up with.
Of course, being a runner, it’s only natural that I mention how good the dinners (and the dinner time view) were at Red Cliffs! Definitely hit the spot after running in the desert all day throughout the camp.
Today’s focus was uphill running, with a focus on running with poles. We drove through the town of Moab to the Hidden Valley Trail. The run begins with a short but steep uphill, perfect for the clinic. Here we refined our mall-walk, used for mildly-steep incline and the trekker technique, for steeper inclines. Often in long distance races it is important to consider where you’ll hike to conserve energy for the more runnable parts of the course. Sometimes it is not feasible to run the entire race. This is part of the fun of long-distance trail running, you have to make strategic decisions to ensure you can cover the ground as fast as you possibly can, without bonking. We were lucky to be greeted with expansive views of the snow-capped mountains in the far distance, despite it being quite hot in the Moab valley.
Being a keen Nordic skier, I was very excited to use poles in my running practice. The uphill pole running came quite naturally, but I definitely need to work on using them to assist me on the steep and technical downhills. A pair of foldable poles are a must if your race has steep technical sections over a long distance. We continued climbing until the trail opened up to a higher valley, where we were lucky enough to come across ancient petroglyphs, some sandy downhills we could absolutely ‘send it’ down, and uphills to put our pole technique to practice and also just goof around!
The Salomon Running crew surprised us for an adventure to Mill Canyon Creek and natural pools for a lunch picnic and much-needed cooldown. A few of us were feeling adventurous and decided to climb above the pools to jump down from the top of the waterfall. After I saw a few other people do it, I had to try it for myself. It was one of those days where each moment you entirely present in, and any stress induced by the past or future temporarily disappears. I really savor days and moments like this. There was a lot of laughter, smiles, and curiosity from the whole group, adventuring and enjoying the environment around Moab.
The evening got even funnier when Max King stitched me up, ordering ‘Rocky Mountain Oysters’ and tricking me into thinking they were freshwater oysters from right out of the Colorado River. Oh how I was wrong, and I found out the hard way by taking a bite, thinking they were ‘fried’ somehow, American style. Rocky Mountain Oysters are a ‘delicacy of the west’, and in fact, are not at all a type of seafood!! If you’re not sure what I’m harping on about, give it a google. Soon the classic Aussie term, ‘stitch up’, had caught on around the camp- I loved it!
Day 3 a few of us got up extra bright and early for a morning run at Porcupine Trail, however I decided to use the time to capture some reel content in a great location, on uncrowded trails, and fit in a bit of rock scrambling too! Digital Marketing and Content Creation in the adventure sports world has always been a bit of a side hobby – if I’m not doing the sport or working in the field, I love to get out there and make content.
The weather today was a lot cooler, with short bursts of rain which is very unique for Moab. However, this was very much needed for the abnormally dry season many parts of the US are experiencing. The small group returned and sang praises for The Porcupine loop, which I hope to run the entirety of next time I get the chance to visit Moab.
Today’s run was focused on downhill technique and slick rock running. We ran through some lower wetland areas up the trail which climbed slightly higher above the Colorado River. The trail hugged the river for almost its entirety, and we were guided to a fun technical downhill to practice bombing down. We all took a few turns running down the trail section as fast as we could, cheering and egging each other on to push it that little bit faster. The rain and wind made it a little bit more fun, to be honest. We were able to run this trail a little faster today, as the terrain was more forgiving and the slick rock allowed for a more sturdy and reliable foot landing. The S/Slab Sense 8 shoes performed extremely well on this terrain, even on the now muddier downhill sections, which were much sturdier on the way out!
A little cold but extremely stoked, we all jumped in the vans and headed back to Red Cliffs to dry off and have some lunch before the afternoon’s activities. We were lucky to meet the selected group of 8 ultra-long distance runners who were attending the camp for the next four days, and spend some time getting to know each other and of course, talking about running and adventures.
Photo by Jeffrey Stern
We paired up and headed out to Arches National Park to create some content. Jamil provided each team with a Gimbal, which has a Gyroscope to stabilize the phone camera whilst you’re on the move. I met the lovely Allison, and we had a blast exploring the rims, cliffs, and rock formations whilst filming the content. That evening we had a movie night and watched everyone’s final product. It was really interesting to see what everyone creates when they are handed a device to aid and express their creativity when given no strict guidelines. We were allowed to let loose in nature and come up with whatever we liked. Definitely a fantastic idea and activity, and a great way to get to know some new faces.
The Salomon team let us know that we would have the opportunity to run a time trial the next day, of around 10.5 miles (1 loop) for the shorter-distance crew and 21 ish miles for the long-distance crew (2 loops). In honesty, personally, I was quite nervous at the idea of running this hard as I had been on a running break for a while due to some medical issues, and recently resumed some mileage in time for the camp. However, after some pep talks by the lovely Salomon team (thank you Courtney!) and my camp teammates, I decided to just give it my best shot, and not put pressure on myself to hold a certain pace. To run it, to take it in, to appreciate the opportunity in front of me – that was the plan.
We all went to bed in high spirits and keen to play and run fast on the trails of Moab in the morning for one last hit-out.
Ready to roll, we drove to the start of the course, recce’d and marked out by Courtney and Olivia the day before. The banter and good vibes filled the atmosphere, and I knew it was going to be an excellent morning. Despite a few days of lots of climbing and mileage (for some!), we all still had energy, because energy is contagious – I’m sure of it.
I loved the opportunity to run this loop with Bonnie, we chatted all about life, navigated the single track, the rocky technical sections, the slick rock, and the small amounts of climbing to push each other through the course. There were some amazing runs by the team, especially some of the paces held over technical trails and distances. I felt motivated to improve my own running technique, and aspire to be as humble and approachable as many of these high-level athletes no matter where life takes me.
The Salomon Running Academy is an opportunity I will never forget. After a very testing 1.5 years since Covid came into this world, the opportunity to attend made many of the harder memories be replaced by a focus on getting fit, healthy and prepared to attend the camp. Soon the harder memories were replaced by wonderful memories of running through Moab with an amazing and supportive group of people from all walks of life. It is one of those experiences that you wish you could relive again and again. However, the great thing about life is there is always time for another adventure, to which you can feel the same exhilaration and that, ‘this is really living’ feeling.
Until the next adventure. Thank you everyone for making The Salomon Ultra Running Academy an experience of a lifetime.